Cranberry Island Hooked Rugs

The following article describes a cottage industry of making original-design hooked rugs, apparently engaged in by the women of Great Cranberry Island, from 1901 to at least 1903.  Mrs. Mildred C. Peladeau of Readfield, ME, found the article in a Bureau of Labor Bulletin "Revival of Handicrafts in America", and sent it to Hugh Dwelley.  She further writes, "Since these rugs were taken to New York to sell, I believe it is unlikely that any or many can be found in Maine.  It would be great to find one or two examples, both for me and for the Historical Society."

We would like to obtain any information available about these rugs, and especially to obtain photographs and/or examples of them.  Please e-mail me if you have one, or know more about them.  --Bruce Komusin

NEWS FLASH!  We now have TWO Cranberry Rugs!

From "Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor", #55 (Nov. 1904), pp 1573-1622, the article "The Revival of Handicrafts in America." by Max West, Ph. D.

Cranberry Island Rugs.

Of the various rug-making industries which have grown out of Mrs. Albee's pioneer efforts in New Hampshire, perhaps the most important is that established among the wives of fishermen on the Cranberry Isle, opposite Northeast Harbor, Me.  Until the rug industry was introduced there these women, though intelligent and sufficiently well provided with the necessaries of life, had little to occupy their time during the winter and but little ready money.  They were ambitious to raise money for church purposes and for building a wharf, etc., and when they heard of the success of the Abnakee rug industry a number of them were desirous of undertaking similar work.  They were already familiar with the process of hooking rugs; and they were fortunate in having the benefit of the initiative, moral support, and financial backing of Mrs. Seth Low, Miss Miriam P. Reynolds, and one or two other New York women whose summer homes are at Northeast Harbor, as well as in obtaining the aid of capable designers.  The industry was started on a small scale in the autumn of 1901, under the supervision of Miss Amy Mali Hicks, a designer identified with the arts and crafts movement in New York City, who designed the patterns and gave instruction in dyeing, etc.  A year later Miss Hicks retired from the management of the enterprise and was succeeded by Miss Una A. Clarke, of Cambridge, Mass., who is also a designer and had had some experience in making rugs.  During the first winter six rugs were made which were exhibited the following summer at Northeast Harbor.  The next winter the industry was developed on a somewhat larger scale, twelve women working on rugs as regularly as their household duties allowed, averaging about two hours a day.  In the summer comparatively little work is done.  One woman stencils all the burlaps, while another dyes all the flannel.  The dyestuffs are obtained from Mrs. Albee, and are identical with those used in the Abnakee rugs; but a somewhat firmer texture is obtained in the Cranberry Island rugs by using 2 yards of flannel to the square foot, instead of 1¼ or 1½, as at Pequaket.  The use of vegetable dyes is now under consideration.

The Cranberry Island rugs are distinguished by the monogram "CR" worked in one corner or on the selvage at the back.  Several designs have been used, with different arrangements of colors, and from time to time new patterns are prepared.  Most of the designs are original and striking, effective use being made of a somewhat conventionalized pine tree and other natural forms; but the patterns of old-time samplers have also been adapted for use in bedroom rugs.  The rugs have been sold about as fast as they could be made, in most cases being made to order.  They are used chiefly in summer cottages in Maine and in the vicinity of New York.  An exhibit was sent to a New York City arts and crafts exhibition in the spring of 1903, and all the rugs sent were sold.  The industry is now firmly established on a self-supporting basis, but the committee of New York women still maintains an organization, Mrs. Charles Wesson having succeeded Mrs. Low as treasurer.

The stenciler receives 25 cents for each rug, and the dyer 6 cents per yard of material.  The women who draw the flannel strips through the burlap receive 40 cents for each square foot, which is about three hours' work.  The rugs are sold at $1.20 per square foot, of which 60 cents represents the cost of materials.  This leaves a margin of a few cents a square foot, which is used for a sinking fund and to pay for the designing etc.  Most of the rugs made thus far have been small ones, selling for from $7 to $32 and averaging about $10 apiece, but orders have been received for at least two large rugs at $100 each.  The small size of the fishermen's houses makes it difficult for the women to handle the larger rugs.

12 August 2005

Mystery of the Cranberry Rugs Begins to Clarify

Victoria Murphy has donated a Cranberry Rug to the historical museum!  She includes a letter of provenance as follows:

The Cranberry Rug

This rug was made on Cranberry Island around 1901 or 1902.

Provenance: One of several Mount Desert summer residents who established a rug-making cottage industry on Cranberry Island was Miriam Reynolds.*  This rug almost surely belonged to her.  Miss Reynolds was part of the family of William Reed Huntington, who spent summers in Northeast Harbor starting around 1886.  Mrs. Huntington had died years before, leaving four small children, and her older sister, Miriam, moved in to take care of them.  The youngest of the four was Mary, who later married William Thompson.  They summered in Tamworth, New Hampshire, and this rug was in their house there.  The house was inherited by their second son, Charles G. Thompson.  When Charles's daughter Victoria married Dr. James S. Murphy, a Seal Harbor summer resident, she was given the Cranberry rug (by then quite worn) so that it might return to nearer its origin.  For forty years it lived in Seal Harbor, but when Victoria's daughter Alice married Cranberry Island summer resident Bill Bancroft, the rug came home!

* There's a photograph of Miss Reynolds among the old photos displayed at the Northeast Harbor Library.  She also founded the Cranberry Club.

Photo of the donated rug:
(108" long and 82" wide)

13 October 2005

Amazing News!  Another Cranberry Rug!

Victoria Murphy, donor of the first Cranberry rug, sends this message:

Very exciting: I sent my younger sister, who has inherited my parents' house in NH, the Bangor Daily News article [about the first rug] and she realized that she had seen a similar rug in the shed storage space.  So she pulled it out and it is quite wonderful - a runner, about 3 ft by 8 ft, same color as the one I gave you but instead of dogs, the motif is crabs.

It has been repaired, in the same way the larger one has, and again there is no sign of the "CI" identification, but it is in much better shape, and because it is so much smaller, will be more readily displayed.

We now have this second Cranberry rug, also.

Photo of the second donated rug:


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